I debated whether or not to address this issue, since it’s already gotten so much media attention and commentary, but I just wanted to say a few words about Lynn Shepherd’s piece for The Huffington Post titled, If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It. Obviously, this is a sensationalist title, and the article goes on to say that — although Shepherd has not read Rowling’s books — she believes that Rowling should give up writing adult books: “By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn,” Shepherd says.
Pretty strong words, no? So much so that my first thought was that the post must be intended as hyperbole. She couldn’t possibly mean she wanted JK Rowling to really stop writing adult books. Seriously? Then I thought it was a marketing ploy, a way to boost Shepherd’s profile, get more comments, higher search results — you know, in a there’s-no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity kind of way. After all, we authors need all the help we can get. But, guess what? Turns out, there might just be such as thing as bad publicity.
As you would imagine, the response to Shepherd’s post was insane. Authors (including Anne Rice) began condemning the piece and Shepherd, and legions of JK Rowling fans were calling for Shepherd’s head on a platter, many of them taking to Twitter and to Shepherd’s Facebook page to tell her so and also posting one-star reviews of Shepherd’s books on Amazon and Goodreads. It was nuts. I kept wondering to myself, Was she hoping to stir the pot? Did she intend to offend? Could she have imagined this crazy response, a response so big that the BBC News covered it?
In addition to feverishly working on my edits for In the Red (I’m still on schedule, yeah!) I’ve spent the last few days reading the flood of posts that are out there regarding Author Earnings: The Report. There are a slew of posts, including:
Anylyzing the Author Earnings Data Using Basic Analytics
Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings Report Is Going to Cut the Anti-Self Publishing Rhetoric Off at the Knees
The New Class System
Fisking Donald Maass
Needless to say, my head is spinning. What strikes me most is the ill will being put forth by both the traditionally published and self-published camps. Call me naive, but why must we label and gang up on one another? The long-standing traditionally published (“snobby,” “elitist”) authors versus the up-and-coming, entrepreneurial self-published authors (“hacks,” “bottom feeders”). It’s a regular Lord of the Flies out there! Perhaps this is the way change works — it’s ugly and people take sides because they’re scared that they won’t have a place (or might lose their place) in the new regime. But, people, I think we all need to work together rather than choose sides. Isn’t it fair to say that self-published books, as a group, are truly making inroads within the publishing industry and that there are many talented authors who are choosing to self-publish? And isn’t it also fair to say that there are many, many self-published books that are truly awful?
At the beginning of this month, I announced I would finish the first major edit of In the Red, my current work-in-progress, by April 1. And, lo and behold, I’m still on schedule. I’ve been editing 25 pages a week, so by tomorrow I’ll have edited 125 pages. Thrilled doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel. There have been so many stops and starts with this book that I had forgotten the secret to getting things done: Just sit your butt down and do it. Commit. Commit. Commit. Make writing/editing your book just as important as feeding your kids or working. That’s it. Just. Do. It. I knew this when I wrote Baby Grand. I’ve always known it, but somehow lost my way. Well, I’m back. And determined. I know the next 100 pages will be the toughest — the middle always is. That darn muddy middle. But my hope is that I’ll report at the end of February that I’ll be at 225 pages and ready to hit the homestretch.
In other news, my nonfiction book Daft Punk: A Trip Inside the Pyramid (St. Martin’s Press) was published on January 21. Very exciting! You know how people talk about the summer of 2013 being The Summer of Daft Punk? Well, it was doubly so for me, as I spent those three months, as “Get Lucky” raced up the charts and broke records, researching and writing this book. When Daft Punk won Album of the Year at the Grammys last Sunday (among other awards), I was smiling to myself as I recognized all their collaborators who were standing up at the podium with them: Paul Williams, Todd Edwards, Nile Rodgers and DJ Falcon, among others. I had learned so much about them that I felt as if I knew them. :)
What are you up to these days? Tell me what you’re working on. Together, we can get our WIPs done and toast our successes.
Those of you who follow this blog know that I wrote Baby Grand, in large part, by writing 1,000 words a day. For my current novel, In the Red, I followed the same regimen, more or less (my work schedule was interrupted quite a bit, however, for this book). As of today, I have a nearly 90,000-word first draft that I need to edit. So, I have set aside these next three months to do just that. Come hell or high water. This. Will. Get. Done. By April 1. You heard it here, folks!
So, I was just staring at my calendar trying to figure out how to plan out a first edit so that I can keep on schedule. I think it’s difficult to know how many pages you can edit in a day. I’m trying to remember how I did a first edit of Baby Grand, but I can’t recall, and I’m too lazy to check earlier posts of this blog. I may have, indeed, met daily edit goals, but this first draft of In the Red is so messy — much messier than Baby Grand was upon completion — that I know it will be nearly impossible. There will be lots of rewriting going on. That’s for sure. So I’ve decided that I will edit 25 pages a week. That gives me a little wiggle room in the day to day. So, by tomorrow, the first 25 pages will be done; by next Friday, the next 25, and so on. That should do it. (Fingers crossed!) So, off I go. Wish me luck!
How about you? What are you working on in 2014?
A recent New York Times article discusses how technology is allowing authors of eBooks to see all kinds of reader data:
- How long does it take readers to read your book?
- Do readers finish your book?
- Do readers skip chapters? If so, which ones?
- Do readers linger over certain scenes?
Some critics argue that having this kind of information will make authors more like pushers of product rather than creators of art, catering to the whims of a fickle consumer. They argue the information interferes with the creative process. Personally, I think the notion of authors writing to the market’s needs/wants is not something new. I have author-friends who have been “persuaded” by agents and publishing houses to write about topics that are “selling” or “hot now.” This kind of nudge or coercion, if you can call it that, is now coming directly from the consumer, rather than the publishing industry and, perhaps, has never been at this micro-level before, although you can argue that it has.
Is this kind of stuff good for authors to know? Sure, why not. Information is good. When I attend book clubs, readers tell me all the time what they’d like to see happen in the sequel to Baby Grand, and I always listen — readers have been very passionate about the book’s characters, which is so cool. But the truth is I already know in my heart how the next book will go, and I don’t think anything anyone says will change that.
I guess that’s the key. It’s like parenting. You listen to what’s being said. You read the information that’s out there. The reviews. You consider the suggestions. But then you do what you think is right. If authors feel strongly about their characters and their books, nothing should sway them from the book they set out to write, whatever the reader data says.
Do you agree? What say you, authors? Would you like to have this kind of reader information? Would it change the way you write?
It’s been a terrific year for Baby Grand! To say thank you to all of you who have supported my debut novel this year, I’m running a Christmas giveaway over on my Facebook author page. To enter, all you have to do is comment on the giveaway post with your favorite holiday song. Yep, that’s it. The winner will be randomly selected and will receive this BELIEVE tag and silver ball station chain (a $22 total value) manufactured by Origami Owl.
Why BELIEVE? Because it’s Christmastime, of course, and also because BELIEVING IN HERSELF is something Baby Grand’s hero, Jamie Carter, must do in order to foil the bad guys’ plans and save the governor’s daughter. (Does she do it? I’ll never tell!) You must be over 18 years of age and a U.S. resident to qualify, and (legal mumbo jumbo) this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. (In other words, it’s mine, mine, all mine!) Contest ends Monday, December 23, 2013, at 9 p.m. EST, and the winner will be announced soon thereafter. Click here to go directly to the post. And feel free to spread the word to your friends and neighbors. The more, the merrier! Good luck!
Idea capture is not writing, but it IS the first step to writing. A coaching client of mine, in response to an email I sent to her offering suggestions on a chapter, decided “you are right. I am throwing out most of Chapter 2.”
I was confused. I didn’t think I said she should.
She had submitted a chapter to me that had some issues — with pacing, clarity, information dumping — so I made quite a few notes and suggested she take another look, never thinking she’d decide to start again.
Of course, that is her choice, and she is very brave to do so. Starting over — whether it’s a chapter, several chapters or an entire book — is always a disheartening prospect, whether you are a new or a seasoned writer. The thought of killing those darlings, crafted with such care over hours, days, weeks or years, can be painful. But sometimes it’s necessary.
But not always. As I wrote to my client regarding her decision to scrap the chapter: “That’s totally up to you. There’s a lot of good stuff throughout the chapter that may just have to be fine-tuned. I think what you say…is true: ‘Idea capture is not writing.’ But it IS the first step to writing.”
Remember, there are times when you don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater when a simple siphoning will do.
I told as much to my client. Just so she knows. In the end, the decision will be hers.